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Berlin apartment building increasingly unsafe

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Posted

I apologize if these issues have been addressed before. I searched the forums for similar posts but this is my first time posting so I am afraid I may have missed something.

We moved into a nice middle tier apartment (not cheap but not the priciest) September 1st. The building was great. Locked front and back doors, basement storage space, elevator, not too many apartments. It's near some of the touristy areas and there are many hotels nearby, but it is residential and pretty quiet. We loved the apartment.

We first noticed that the maintenance man wasn't very helpful and didn't respond quickly. Not the end of the world if it's just a matter of installing something. However Mid November, things seemed to start to fall apart. Suddenly the elevator wasn't working for days on end. Then when it was fixed it only had service to certain floors. The elevator was one of the reasons we chose this apartment and we actually depend upon it. So now the elevator works again - but since mid November it has stopped at every floor but ours. So this means we have to take the stairs up or down a floor to access it. For a week we tolerated it, but now over a month later it has become a complete inconvenience and frustration.

We have called the landlord and maintenance man over this multiple times. They give a vague answer and dismiss us.

Then early December our basement storage unit was robbed despite the fact that it was locked. Everything was taken from it including some extremely large items that are extremely inconvenient to move. This would mean a multiple person operation making a decent amount of noise and most likely shock at the weight. Multiple people would have then had to carry the stolen items out of the building and into a car because there would be no way to walk away from it.

It turns out some sort of electric/phone people were in the basement and just left the doors open. The Landlord and maintenance man again shrugged.

Now the front door lock has been completely broken out of the front door. The door swings open freely. We have made multiple calls to the landlord and maintenance man but we are just shrugged off and dismissed.

I would know how to proceed with this rights-wise in The US, but here I am completely lost.

Do we refrain from paying rent until the issues are resolved? If we do that, can they legally evict us? Do we need a lawyer and if so, what kind?

I have other questions too.. Is the landlord any way responsible for our basement room being broken into? Is there any legal obligation to provide more building safety here? Is there a type of lawyer or some kind of tenants rights group I should be speaking to? Ideally I'd prefer to fully communicate in English but if the next steps are only able to be followed in German that's fine too.

The bottom line, I guess, Is that we went from being in a safe building to suddenly being very unsafe. People can walk into the building at any time, people can commit criminal acts without anyone supposedly noticing, and I am unable to get to my apartment without jeopardizing my safety due to lack of elevator.

Sorry for the rant. Helpful feedback is appreciated.

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Posted

Oh dear, that sounds horrible and I'm sorry you're having such a hassle! Yes, you can be evicted if you just stop paying rent. There is a specific procedure you need to follow, to avoid giving your landlord a foothold to take action against you.

First things first: Get yourself down to the Berliner Mietverein immediately and become a member (costs 90 Euros a year, money well spent). Ask them all your questions, they will be able to help in terms of legal issues, advice on reducing your rent etc.

HTH

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Posted

Thank you so much!!

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Posted

Please keep in mind that German memberships generally automatically renew - this is also the case with the Mietverein. Two-year membership is standard, and you will need to cancel three months before the end of the second calender year (Vierteljahresfrist zum Ende des Kalenderjahres), in writing.

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Posted

In general, I don't think you should ever cancel membership of the Mieterverein - especially if you joined for them to help you with an acute problem. Instead, see your ongoing membership as an insurance policy against future troubles and thanks for their past help, not to mention the confidence and comfort of knowing that they always have your back.

Unless you buy your own place and move in, of course.

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Posted

El Jeffo is right - I don't recommend cancelling either, for exactly those reasons he's given above (except that he's much more articulate than I am and said it much better). I did, however, want to make you aware of the fact that this is one of those memberships that stay with you and - should you ever move away from Berlin - needs to be cancelled in good time.

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Posted

+1 for joining the Mietverein. We had similar problems to yours (though luckily not so serious) in our last apartment. The people at the Mietverein will show you the necessary steps to take - I think we organized workmen to fix stuff ourselves and then deducted the cost from the rent we paid. Once the building manager/ owner realise that they are dealing with lawyers and the Meitverein you'll probably find that their attitude changes quite quickly (unless they like throwing money away). Of course once we left the apartment the wouldn't pay back our deposit but again the lawyers from the Mietverein starting sending expensive (to them) letters and we soon got our money.

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Posted

Thank you all for your help. I really appreciate it. We are signing up for the Mietverein now. They won't call us back about fixing the front door lock and it has become extremely troubling.

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